We often hear the importance of literacy and reading to children. Helping children develop into lifelong readers, writers, and creative thinkers can be fun for everyone. Research tells us that the first five years of life is a critical period for language development. The way we talk, expand on our child's sentences, the songs we sing, and the stories we read are important.
Providing books on subjects children are interested in, offering magazines, photographs with text, and reading the same story over and over again are all ways to encourage literacy. We can help our children understand the association between written and spoken words by following print as we read stories aloud. Playing rhyming and letter sound games also helps - whether in the car or in line at the grocery store.
A simple rhyming game involves just giving your child a word like "mat" and having them rhyme a word with it. At first you may need to help, but in time they will have all sorts of rhymes. Another is to give them a letter sound and help them find objects that begin with that sound, such as "A" for apple, ant, and avocado. Learning alphabet sounds in context is more fun for little ones than flash cards and teaches phonemic and phonological (letters and the combination of letter sounds) awareness. Encourage writing by providing them with paper, crayons, letter stamps, and letter stickers.
One activity you can do is to grow some grass in a container in the shape of a letter or word. Your child might enjoy watching their name "grow."
1. Tell your child you are going to grow a letter out of grass. Choose the letter or name together.
2. Have your child fill the container with dirt. This might be a good time to make a prediction about how many scoops it will take to fill the container.
3. Cut paper into 2-inch strips and create the shape of letter using the side of the paper and place it in the dirt. Repeat the letter out of paper making a half an inch in between the papers.
4. Place the grass seed in between the two papers.
5. Water the grass seed.
6. Place in a window and watch literacy grow.
You can extend this activity by using a ruler to measure the grass growing and by making an observation journal tracking its growth.